Formatting Guide

Brief Overview

Formatting is the presentation of a written assignment. Formatting refers to the specific style of presenting an academic paper. It stresses on the layout and the overall image of the assignment. Formatting may be different for various types of assignments. Some of the items that are included in formatting are:

  • Headings
  • Ordinary paragraph
  • Indenting
  • Font size
  • Font type
  • Font color
  • Bibliographical referencing
  • Line spacing
  • Page numbers and
  • Footnotes, and so on.

There are certain uses and importance of formatting which a writer needs to bear in mind while writing the assignment.

  • Formatting makes the assignment look readable and presentable
  • Formatting makes the assignment conform to the standards of presentation of specific assignments.

APA stands for American Psychological Association, which is used in social sciences to cite sources. The general guideline for APA 6th Edition is that:

  • Assignments should be typed in double space on (8.5” x 11”) sized standard paper with a margin of 1”
  • Clear and readable font size needs to be used, but APA recommends Times New Roman with a font size of 12
  • A page header needs to be incorporated at the beginning of each page This page header is also called a running head
  • The page header is made at the top of the page with the page number at the top right-hand side of the page with a maximum of 50 characters.

The main portions of the assignment for a writer in APA are title, abstract, main body, and references.

Title Page
  • The title page includes the title of the paper, the name of the author, and the associations with the university. These are the general guidelines for formatting the title page in APA style
  • The title typed in the center of the page. Each word needs to be capitalized, excluding articles and prepositions.
  • APA style stresses the fact that the title should not exceed 12 words, and abbreviations and meaningless words should be eliminated. The title should be in one line. The entire text should be double spaced and in Times New Roman with font size 12
  • The title should be followed by the name of the author. The first name, middle, and last name of the author is written. No degree or specialization is needed to be mentioned on the title page. The institutional tie-up should be mentioned, which is a reflection of where the research was conducted
  • Abstract or executive summary should be written on a new and fresh page.
  • The abstract needs to incorporate a “page header,” and the word abstract needs to be written on the center of the page, and no formatting is needed to be applied to it.
  • The abstract should not be made bold or italics, and no such formatting are needed to be applied to the abstract.
  • The abstract needs to be concise and well-articulated. However, the abstract should include all the key elements of the topic. The abstract should be in one paragraph and double spaced. Ideally, the abstract should be 10% of the word count.
  • If the writer intends on including the list of keywords, then a new indentation is needed. This should reflect a new paragraph.

In APA style, there is no specific heading for the introduction section, and letters and numbers are not used to signify the heading. The number of headings depends on the length of the assignments and the number of sub-points related to the topic.


Harvard formatting style highlights a unique style of the cover page.

Cover page
  • The cover page and the title of the page are set at the bottom of the page.
  • The title of the page is in capital letters.
  • The name of the author is written at the bottom of the page.
  • The name of the author is not in capital letters. The name of the educational institutions is also given.
  • The title of the page is right-justified and does not work as per the normal, left, and center alignments.

The header contains a short description of the title.

  • The header contains the title of the topic and the page numbers on the right-hand side of the page.
  • The title of the assignment is centered and in capital letters. In the case of a long assignment, the assignments can have a centered subheading, and the sub-points need to be in italics
General rule
  • Harvard style stresses the use of standard font size, including Times New Roman, Helvetica, and Arial. Therefore, the use of standard font style and size is the requirement in Harvard style.
  • No fancy fonts are used in Harvard formatting styles. There should not be any excessive use of colors or excessive use of bold, italics, and underline features in the text assignment. The text should be double spaced, and proper spacing of left margin and right margin is made.
  • In Harvard style, the name of long plays, movies, journals, magazines, etc. are written in italics, whereas the name of short stories, short plays, etc. are written in double-quotes. In Harvard style, the referencing style is particular.
  • There is no tab applied at the beginning of each paragraph. Justified alignment is used for text.
  • Double spacing and, in certain cases, 1.5 line spacing is used for text assignments.
  • Non-indented paragraphs are used in the Harvard formatting style. There is no tab given at the beginning of the paragraph.

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. MLA utilizes general formatting styles and uses the English language.

Font size and spacing
  • In MLA formatting style, standard 8”x11” standard paper is used
  • MLA formatting style uses double spacing
  • MLA recommends the use of standard font sizes, such as Times New Roman and font size of 12.

It is said in MLA formatting style the regular texts and the texts in italics should be recognizable, and there should be enough scope of differentiating between the two.

Spacing and indenting
  • There should be only space provided after a full stop and after other punctuation marks.
    This is the normal style of providing spaces, in normal cases, unless in some exceptional cases. The margin is set to 1 inch on all sides in the MLA formatting style. This is the indenting style and margin limit used in the MLA formatting style.
  • The first line of a paragraph is indented one and half-inch from the left sides of a margin. MLA formatting style recommends writers to apply tab instead of applying a space bar five times. This is how indention is done in this formatting style.
  • Quotation and italics sentences are used for referring to different words used in the title. The requirements are the same as in the text of the assignment. There should be a double space between the first line and the title of the page. Double spacing is an important fact in the MLA formatting style.

In the MLA formatting style, the use of the header is suggested. In the header, the page number of each page is mentioned on the top right corner, one-half inch from the top. In certain cases, the first page, which is the title page, has the page number omitted. In MLA formatting style, certain important works and notable aspects, which need specific emphasis and highlighting is required to be italicized and mentioned only when needed. In the case of endnotes, the endnotes need to be mentioned on a separate page. This page should have the title centered and formatted.

A header needs to be created at the upper right-hand corner of the page with the last name of the writer and followed by the page number. The page numbers are made consecutively based on the Arabic numerals. The header is made one-half inch from the top and top right margin of the page. A header is used to signify the name of the author, along with the page number.

  • MLA also emphasizes on section headings to increase the readability of the assignment and also improve on the presentation of the page. Certain important chapters and notes are mentioned under the sections headings.
  • MLA recommends that the sections should be followed by Arabic numerals, then the period followed by a space and then the section name.

MLA does not have specific guidelines and style of headings for books. If someone uses only one level of heading in a book, it signifies that all other sections are similar and distinct, and it does not hint at any other level of heading in the books. These sections need to resemble one another grammatically.

Some of the rules and practices for headings in MLA are:

Heading 1- it includes the heading to be bold and be made on the extreme left. Heading 2 includes the heading to be in italics and on the extreme left. Heading three mentions the heading in the center and bold letters, whereas heading four stresses on the headings to be centered and in italics. Heading five stresses on the headings to be underlined, and such headings are made on the extreme left of the page. Thus, these are some of the rules regarding headings in the MLA formatting style. Writers have to be careful and aware of the MLA formatting style.

Title Page

MLA formatting style does not recommend the making of the title page.

However, under specific guidelines, the title page could be made. However, it can be seen that in the MLA formatting style, the title page is not recommended to be made.

  • In the upper left-hand corner page, the name of the student, the instructor’s name, the name of the course and date is mentioned. Double spacing is used in the text of the assignment.
  • The text needs to be double spaced and centered. The title should not be underlined, italicized, or put under quotation marks. The title needs to be made in the title case. The title case is the standard capitalization and does not stress on using all capital letters. These are certain specifications in the title case.